So often, I wonder about the Netflix business model. It’s probably not healthy for me. Yet, I’m sure what they do makes sense to them. For example, when they’ve branded a show as “Netflix Original” content, why would they then sunset access to that content? You’d think the purpose of branding would be to build a unique library for themselves? Perhaps its a matter of dollars and cents. Contracts come up for renewal and if a work isn’t making money for Netflix, they won’t want to throw more money at it. However, the cynic in me wonders if this isn’t part of an effort to create “planned obsolescence” for streaming content. That is, are we being trained that when we see a show we like on Netflix, we had better get to watching it soon, while it is still available? Are they herding us back toward the old broadcast TV model because that model was more profitable?
If you’re wonder what all that nonsense is about, I’m in the middle of watching The Fall. This show is a three-season television series jointly produced and aired by the BBC in the UK and RTÉ One in Ireland. The show takes place (and was made) in Belfast. It is a police drama but with a few added twists. It firstly sets itself apart as the lead character is a woman, Detective Superintendent Gibson played by Gillian Anderson. By way of contrast, even where cop dramas do use leading women, they’re typically cast in “buddy” roles and not as a singular lead. Here, Anderson plays an inscrutable and unemotional hunter, matching her wits against a serial killer. Second, the identity of the criminal is known from the opening scenes. You know right away that this is not your typical “whodunnit.” Instead, we watch the show to figure out the “why” and the “how.”
Besides the fact that it is my last chance to watch it, I figured that if I’m watching the new Mulder, I need to give Scully equal time. Like the actor playing her former partner, Anderson has continued on with her career including playing leading roles. A major reason her profile may be lower on American TV is that she’s been living and working in the United Kingdom, where she grew up. While she was born in the United States, her parents lived London during her early use. As a result, she speaks a “native” accent in both England and America giving her any easy ability to star on either side of the pond.
As to the show, it quickly grows on you. It has a slow pacing, definitely so when compared to American cop drama. Just for an example, the opener for Season 3 shows several characters being rushed to the hospital (without the “the” in Northern Ireland’s English). In an American series, I’d expect a furious five minutes of medical treatment followed by a few more scenes of recovery after which we’d want to get right back to the detecting and policing. In The Fall, the hospitalization takes up the entire hour with a high amount of detail concerning emergency room procedure. Your mind has to adapt to this speed but once you get with the program, the show is as dramatic as any.
The Fall also treats its subject more in the manner one might expect from films, as opposed to a television series (again, by American standard). From the beginning, the killer, public bereavement councilor Paul Spector, may be the most sympathetic of all the major characters. Anderson’s lead is off-putting and seems to lack the emotional reactions appropriate for the “good guy.” Other police figures seem, at least at times, weak and ineffectual. Of course, Spector is a serial killer and a sociopath, so he has those strikes against him, but other than that…
Spector is played by Irish actor Jamie Dornan. I did not know, until looking him up, that he was the title character in the movie version of gal-porn Fifty Shades of Grey. How would we know such things? I’ve notice, watching the later seasons Midsomer Murders (also soon to be pulled from Netflix, speaking of that business model), when a recognizable (once again, to us American audience members) face appears on the screen, he’s the killer. The Fall would seem to follow in those footsteps, with its strongest actor being cast as the villain. Dornan is a convincing psychopath – not just terrifying, but charming and persuasive as well. In terms of co-stars, Scully’s Spector beats Mulder’s Manson, hands down.
I haven’t made it through this show quite yet, but I’m optimistic I can do so before the time runs out.